This academic year marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Adoniram Judson Gordon, founder of Gordon College in Wenham and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton.
To commemorate his life and legacy, several events have been scheduled both locally and abroad. Besides these calendar additions, the regular happenings of Gordon College, from anticipated annual celebrations to special lectures and exhibits, will also center on themes deemed representative of the founder's life: education, evangelism, global missions, servant leadership, social justice, theology and worship.
A. J. Gordon, born April 19, 1836, was a New Hampshire native who received his education at Brown University and Newton Theological Institution. Upon his graduation, he accepted a pastorate at the Jamaica Plain Baptist Church. Gordon served there six years before moving to the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston where he ministered from 1869 until his death in 1895.
During his time at Clarendon Street, Gordon carried on a passionate ministry of preaching, teaching, writing and serving the community, quickly becoming Boston's most well-known and influential Baptist minister.
He spoke at prominent venues, including Yale, Princeton and Brown universities. Gordon's church was aggressively missionary, which led eventually to the 1889 inception of Gordon College's predecessor, The Boston Missionary Training Institute.
"His vision for spreading the gospel through education, at the time, was very bold and revolutionary," said Dan Tymann, executive vice president of Gordon College. "Our birthday celebration's theme, 'Uncommon Courage, Everyday Faith,' is a combination that really captures him."
Gordon was truly before his time, promoting social justice and women's rights. He was graduating a significant amount of female students from his training institute during a time when doing so had yet to become popular practice. The books, hymns, sermons, articles and letters that Gordon produced throughout his life were and are an invaluable resource for the spiritual and academic development of Christian leaders.
The goal of this year's tribute is to revive knowledge of Gordon's often overlooked heritage, including republishing "How Christ Came to Church," one of his classic works.
Carol and Dick Visser, as well as Joyce Wallace, came up with the idea for the birthday celebration. Carol Visser and Wallace are the daughters of the last pastor of Clarendon Street Baptist Church.
They saw his birthday anniversary as an opportunity to remember and raise awareness of Gordon's life and the principles and vision by which he lived. They brought their idea to college leaders.
"They've been the real inspiration and momentum behind the events this year," Tymann said.
The year began with The Rough and the Holy, a one-man play on Sept. 1.
Other events include: Homecoming, Oct. 8-10; Christmas at Gordon, Dec. 1-4; Fezziwig's Ball, Dec. 11; Women in Leadership Lecture Series, March 8; Tuition Freedom Day, March 21; Origins and Originality: Keeping the Faith, a student symposium, April 14; Uncommon Courage, Everyday Faith, a leadership symposium featuring leading scholars; April 15; A. J. Gordon's 175th birthday, a campuswide occasion, April 19 and the A. J. Gordon family reunion on June 11.
The celebration is being funded by donors and family members. All events are open to the public and most are free. Visit Gordon College's website for a more detailed schedule as the year progresses.